A few days ago, developer Ubisoft posted on Twitter that he believes achievements and trophies have had a negative impact on the industry, as seen below. Like many people, this got me thinking, and there are a surprising number of ways to actually look at it, and not all of them as sharp and dry as Fredrik’s.
While most know that the achievement system we see today was the brainchild of the folks at Microsoft, it’s no secret that in-game accolades have been around for much longer, whether it’s the leaderboards in an arcade machine, where we all try to use the naughtiest three letter words we can think of, or the more recent time trials, gold medals etc. that you might compare yourself to your friends and vice versa. It was all very rudimentary, but at least effective for bragging between friends.
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However, in 2005, Microsoft changed that with the introduction of ‘Achievements’, and Sony followed suit three years later with their imaginatively titled rip-off ‘Trophies’. Fast forward almost two decades and every platform with the exception of Nintendo has followed suit, and now it seems like you can’t load a game without eventually getting some kind of reward for doing something no matter how dumb or gameplay centric it also is. are.
Unpopular opinion: achievements/trophies have been bad for gaming. It narrows games, it disrupts and distracts, and eats up resources that could have made the game better.
— Fredrik Thylander (@Thylander) January 7, 2023
Now, Fredrik is certainly approaching the subject from a development standpoint, and it’s hard not to agree. In fact, it makes sense to think that if members of a development team are busy inventing and coding these dopamine hits for us, they’re not spending critical time developing the actual game, or resources for it. However, are there really so many man-hours involved in achievement and trophy development that it would make a real difference to the final product of a game? I do not think so.
Performance – useful or exploitative tool?
From a player’s perspective, there are good and bad sides to these reward systems that are now ingrained in our gaming culture. On the one hand, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve fired up a game and since there’s an achievement/trophy for doing something I wouldn’t normally do, I’ve spent the time doing that thing. Whether it was exploring a certain area, completing all the side quests, or using a certain weapon, I’ve had a lot of fun completing it, and I’ve seen and done a lot in games I never would have . So the argument is that these rewards have allowed me to experience and appreciate more of the game and the developer’s efforts than I would otherwise.
However, on a personal level, you also have the other side of the coin where I’ve played more games than I’d like to make sure I don’t have a half-empty achievement list and did a mind-numbing grind to make sure I make it platinum – shortly after that I look at the platinum and think ‘that was a waste of time’, and then I move on to the next thing; similar to most addictions, it is a destructive habit to break.
I don’t think we’ll be throwing out achievements or trophies anytime soon, and from a gamer’s point of view, while they take the time to put together a really good list that will directly contribute to your experience in a meaningful and time-respectful way, they’re a good thing, for example the trophy list for Marvel’s Spider-Man, but unfortunately far too many developers will use the achievement and trophies as another way to hook their customers, us.
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What do you think? Do you play games the same way regardless of achievements and trophies? Or are you one of many who take a more clinical approach to them, with step-by-step plans and guides ready to make sure you don’t miss a thing?
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